A short cycle rickshaw ride then a shorter walk, and I see a tower belching smoke. Immediatley my mind turns to Orthanc and Isengard, but rather than orcs being groined from the ground, here they make bricks.

Brick works, Calcutta

Men and women crouch, picking up lumps of clay and then throwing them into wooden moulds, pressing the clay down, and swiftly level the tops with a wire before turning the blocks out ready to dry. Then back for the next and the next. They work apace, for the pittance they’ll receive depends upon how many bricks they’ve made that day.

Bricks drying

I notice a stick-thin girl – perhaps, I think, a couple of years old. Then I notice her tinier sister next to her, also pathetically emaciated. And finally I notice a small baby clinging to the back of the first girl, looking like a tiny spider monkey shawn of its fur. It’s a pathetic tableau. None of the girls looks healthy. No-one her elooks healthy, child or adult. Faces are drawn and aunt, eyes dead and soulless. Some children are pot-bellied, whether from worms or kwashiorkor, I know not, and it doesn’t make any difference, for in this place there’s money enough neither to fill the belly, nor to heal the sick.

Many of these people aren’t from these parts. Their clothing belies their origins, as their faces proclaim their homelands. They’ve been drawn here in their millions in the hope of a better life. If this is the better life, then what hellish existence have they left behind?

Child workers at brick works, Calcutta

[I2011 3]

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